July 9, 2010

Twitter tip: Choose whom you follow strategically

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How to overcome the concern that social media is a time suck

Beth KanterFor the past few years whenever I doing a training or talk about nonprofits and social media and more recently when we’ve presented about the book, The Networked Nonprofit, someone always raises this concern: “Social media is a time suck.”

Networked nonprofits are not only experts in using social media, but they know how to streamline their workflow often based on an understanding of applying network theory to their practice. 

It isn’t about following thousands and thousands of friends on Twitter. We don’t have the time or brain cells for that. It’s about finding people who are connected to different social circles and following them. Of course you have to be interested in what information or conversations they are sharing on Twitter. Identifying these people — what writer Vladis Krebs calls “nodes” — is at the core of social network analysis.

What if  you have been following people without thinking and now have an overloaded Twitter stream? Here are some tips to help you tame the Twitter lion.

What is most important to find and cultivate the connectors and weavers in communities or topics of interest. There are some free tools that can help you visualize your Twitter network or do quasi social network analysis on Twitter.  

Twitter tools to measure your influence

Here are a few tools that I’ve used:

• Use Friend or Follow to download a spreadsheet of followers. Sort the information to find people you should get to know. This works best if you have small network.

Mr. Tweet finds people in your network you should follow — use this after you have built up your following list.

Twitalyzer is a terrific analytics tool that gives you some good benchmarking metrics for Twitter. Run the impact report to help you identify influencers.

Mailana can help you identify people who have a strong affinity with your cause or organization. I wrote about an experiment I did last year using this tool. One limitation is that it doesn’t analyze your network in real time. You submit the user ID and then have to come back a few days later unless it is already in the database.

Twiangulate lets you analyze cross over between your Twitter network and another Twitter user.  This can be useful to find potential collaborators.

Klout lets you track the “influence” of specific Twitter users, including the growth of their network, who they influence, and who they are influenced by.

Mention Map helps you visualize who is interacting with you around which hashtags.  It shows nodes on your network.   There is not information about how its drawings are created, though.

Tips for Twitter Lists

Once you’ve started to identify connectors and people to follow, you’ll need to manage it. Twitter Lists can help you create subgroups of all your followers.

• Create Twitter Lists of those accounts, organized by topic or community.

• Keep the lists small and manageable.

• Add these lists to your Twitter client and set up a schedule to monitor. This makes the Twitter content feel more grounded, as opposed to just flying by.

• Create Twitter searches for keywords to find additional sources. Follow them as needed.

• Tend to your lists regularly and unfollow people who don’t provide value to you, perhaps people who tweet about things you are not interested in.

Apply a little social networking theory and think before you follow. Ask yourself, if you were stuck on desert island and could only follow 150 people, who would you choose? How many people do you follow and why? How do you manage it?

Cross-posted from Beth’s blog.Beth Kanter is CEO of Zoetica, a consultancy for nonprofits. See her profile, visit her blog, contact Beth or leave a comment.

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